Monday, December 26, 2005


Oy tannenbaum!

My parents, though not particularly religious, were resolute that their children should not drift into Christianity, and so in my boyhood we celebrated Chanukkah with an 8-night present-exchanging vengeance. I carried this bit of religio-cultural upbringing into adulthood, and for many years I refused to have a Christmas tree under my roof.

Xmas tree ornament hand-made by yours truly: Santa in a chimeny,
composed of three kinds of wrapping paper and a toilet paper tube.

But I softened on that. How can you be "principled" about refusing a Christmas tree given all the contradictions inherent in the Yuletide celebration? To name just a few:
1) Christmas is a widely acknowledged opportunity for a secular seasonal retail sales boom.
2) Christmas is an official holiday in a nation that is supposedly based on separation of church and state.
3) Some of the most festive Christmas traditions -- including, especially, the tree -- have pagan origins.
4) Gift-exchanging is not an organic Chanukkah tradition, but rather a purposeful add-on to offset the allure of Christmas gift-exchanging.
Early in our relationship, B called me in tears from her father's house on Christmas day. It was her family's first Christmas together after her mother died, and her dad, in his gruff way of grieving, had jettisoned many of their key traditions that year -- even to the point of buying a fake Christmas tree.

B flew home later that day, and I met her at the airport, and brought her back to my place. She didn't notice the telltale pine needles on the back seat of my car. I had bought a real tree to perk her up, stuck it in my living room, and -- lacking any "real" Christmas ornaments -- decked it out with bits of gift wrap I had around the house. The ornament pictured above was at the top of the tree. That's how the tree thing caught on in my house.

I've really come to enjoy having the decked out tree in the living room, with wrapped presents sprouting underneath like mushrooms. So there it is -- my personal addition to the contradictions of Christmas time.

Call it a comment from one non-Christian who loves Christmas trees to another:
freshly married (that would be almost 30 years ago), I came back with my husband from a several month stay in Scotland to face the perplexing problem of what to put on top of the tree. We were in a plant store and this idea struck us as exactly right -- why not a piece of heather, wrapped with plaid ribbon? The heather dried but has kept its shape over the years, lovingly preserved in a shoe box. The ribbon is as buoyant as ever.
dear oscar,

nice hanukkah bush!


I like the idea of just picking and choosing which holiday traditions you like and want to adopt. Makes sense to me ....
Yeah, what the heck was all this anti-tree stuff from mom, anyway? It took me several years to relent on the tree thing, as well. And we started slowly, with a tiny, Charlie-Brown type tree, and have come about to this year, and the tree that's scraping the ceiling, with ornaments that Linney and I have made over the years. (I'm still upset that the mermaid broke. Yes, I made a mermaid tree ornament out of sculpey clay.)
That down-the-chimney ornament atop the tree. YOU ARE A GENIUS, no doubt about it.
B is one lucky gal to have a thoughtful guy like you.
You are so cool.
Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

Subscribe to Posts [Atom]